Latest Public Sector News

05.03.12

Private sector bids for police roles

Police will invite private security firms to bid for roles in West Midlands and Surrey forces, it has been announced.

The private sector officers would respond to and investigate some crimes, patrol neighbourhoods and support witnesses and victims, but would not carry out any arrests.

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, has called the proposal “extremely dangerous”.

The contract has a potential value of £1.5bn over seven years, but could rise to £3.5bn depending on how many other forces sign up. This move comes in the face of financial pressure to police forces, as they must deal with 20% cuts to budgets over four years.

The former Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, writes in The Guardian: “Many forces have employed their own non-police staff to undertake this sort of task but have been unable to do so in sufficient numbers because of the need to employ a fixed and ever increasing number of officers within a fixed budget.

“The tender offered by West Midlands and Surrey police signals a shift which would allow the private sector to provide staff who can carry out routine and repetitive tasks at cheaper rates and, perhaps most intriguingly, to provide temporary access to skilled staff – such as murder inquiry teams – which can be hired for incidents that are rare in most forces but for which all forces must permanently retain a group of very expensive staff.

“This would then allow the chief constable, satisfied that he or she has commissioned these kind of services at a cheaper rate, to spend more of the budget on those parts of the service that require, because of their complexity, their impact on public safety or their centrality to the police mission, to be carried out by fully warranted officers.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are determined to do anything that will help the police to become more efficient and better able to fight crime. We have been very open in our support for the police in taking these decisions.”

Yet others have raised concerns about how this could affect public policing. The Police Federation vice-chairman Simon Reed said: “This is an extremely dangerous road to take. The priority of private companies within policing will be profit and not people, and we must not forget, they are answerable to their shareholders and not to the public we serve.”

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